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ST. LOUIS – Nearly every morning, our staff will check Google Trends to see what people are searching for in St. Louis, Missouri, and beyond, or potential story ideas. On Thursday, we discovered a lot of people were searching to see if pregnant women could get divorced in Missouri.

It’s an odd query at first blush. Perhaps this was connected to a conspiracy theory of some kind in need of closer examination (and possible debunking). But this is no fantasy or foolhardy contrivance meant to dupe the public. It turns out pregnant women really cannot get divorced in the state of Missouri.

According to the American Pregnancy Association, a non-profit focused on reproductive health and pregnancy wellness, Missouri is one of four states (along with Arizona, Arkansas, and Texas) where courts will not grant a divorce if the woman is pregnant.

It’s state law, covered in Chapter 452.310 of Title XXX, under “Dissolution of Marriage.” When a person files a petition for divorce (be it the husband or the wife), they must include certain information in their paperwork – eight items specifically. Item five specifically states the petitioner must identify “whether the wife is pregnant.”

The Riverfront Times highlighted the story of a Lake of the Ozarks woman forced to cope with these strange circumstances. She had to file for divorce from her husband three different times. She first filed in early December 2020. She had to re-file weeks later after learning she was pregnant. She filed a third and final divorce petition in August 2021, after the birth of her son, in order to state that she was no longer pregnant.

To be clear: a pregnant woman can file for divorce. However, the courts will not finalize or grant the divorce until after the child is born in order to establish paternity. When a married woman becomes pregnant, the husband is assumed to be the father under the law. According to local attorney firms Haefner Law Office and the Marks Law Firm, courts prefer to issue one judgment in divorce proceedings, and granting visitation rights for a fetus or child while in utero is considered speculative. This also allows a husband and wife going through a divorce to seek a paternity test to determine biological and legal parentage.